Melbourne - Andy Murray has suffered
through an eventful Australian Open but he will have his eye on a fifth final
in seven years when he takes on a much-improved Milos Raonic in the semis on
It has been a particularly difficult
tournament for the two-time major winner, who nearly pulled out when his
father-in-law, coach Nigel Sears, collapsed at Rod Laver Arena last week.
Second-ranked Murray, who is yet to win the
year's opening Grand Slam, also has a wary eye on events at home where his wife
Kim Sears is heavily pregnant with their first child.
Despite all the distractions, 28-year-old
Murray has worked his way to his 18th Grand Slam semi-final for his seventh
meeting against big-serving Raonic, with the winner facing Novak Djokovic or
Roger Federer in the final.
Raonic, now working with former world
number one Carlos Moya, has impressed in reaching his second Grand Slam
semi-final thanks to first-time wins over former winner Stan Wawrinka and Gael
"After a tough year in 2014, I think
I'm now established again at the top of the game and giving myself
chances," Murray said.
"That's all I can keep doing and
working hard. Yeah, two matches away potentially here. Give it my best over the
next few days."
Both players have made noticeable
improvements in their games in the run to the last four.
Murray's second serve, once considered a
weakness, has more power under the coaching of Amelie Mauresmo. He hit a top
speed of 160 kilometres per hour with his second serve during his quarter-final
win over David Ferrer.
Such extra oomph on second serve gives
Britain's Murray more weapons at the business end of the major to complement
his already formidable return and defensive game.
Murray beat Raonic, the world number 14, in
straight sets in their only Grand Slam meeting at the 2012 US Open, and overall
both have three wins against each other.
Raonic is no longer just a one-dimensional
huge server. His volleying has improved under Moya, and he has more confidence
coming to the net.
"Significantly, I think I know better
how to use my groundstrokes. But at the same time, because I'm getting to the
ball in a better position, it's easier," the Canadian said.
"I don't feel like I'm getting hustled
around the court that much. I feel like I can find my way back. I don't have to
go for big shots on the run."
Raonic, who is also looking more composed
and organised on court, said playing Murray was a big opportunity after he lost
in straight sets to Federer in his only previous Grand Slam semi-final, at
Wimbledon in 2014.
"It's a great opportunity for me. I
had a disappointing semi-final two years ago, and I just want to change that
story around and give myself another go with more experience," he said.
"I feel like I'm a better player than
I was two years ago."
Raonic said he would be aiming to get
Murray out of his comfort zone.
"We're both very different and I think
improved players from 14 months ago," he said.
"So I have certain aspects that I
would like to manipulate and use my game in, and I'm sure he's going to try to
do a lot of different things, too.
"I think it's going to be a race to
who can get in the comfort zone of themselves first."
The world number 14 Raonic has turned heads
in Australia, beating Federer in the Brisbane International final and is
unbeaten in nine matches this year.